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It's time to take cloud UC seriously

Cloud UC has become the delivery model that best fits today's computing environment and mobile workforce.

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Cloud UC services have been around for well over a decade, and adoption is still fairly light. For a number of...

reasons, I believe it's time for business and IT leaders to adopt cloud-based UC. In a 2014 TechTarget/ZK Research unified communications survey, we asked respondents to give us their opinions on cloud-based UC services. While 10% of respondents identified it as their primary solution and 14% consider it to be viable for augmenting their UC solution, a  third of respondents said they are holding off on implementing cloud UC altogether. See Figure 1 for all the results. 

Considering how long UCaaS has been available, these numbers are very low. Why? Well, as is the case with any cloud-based application, there is a tremendous amount of trepidation. Primary fears tend to revolve around quality of experience, security and IT's ability to have the same level of control as with on-premises-based technologies.

While these are valid concerns, UC providers have largely resolved those problems. In fact, with respect to security, the cloud providers' practices and capabilities often exceed those of the customer. But those aren't the reasons why I feel it's time for businesses to take cloud UC seriously.

cloud computing unified communications, cloud-based unified communications
Fig. 1: 2014 TechTarget/ZK Research UC survey

It's time for cloud UC because it's the delivery model that best fits today's computing environment. On-premises-based technologies were fine when the majority of workers resided in a corporate location and mobility was limited. Nothing could be further from the truth today. Workers are constantly on the go and need to access UC applications on the road. Mobility has become the norm, and cloud addresses mobile computing much better than traditional deployment methods.

It's time for cloud UC because it's the delivery model that best fits today's computing environment.

Mobile workers are using a wide variety of devices that may or may not be on the corporate network. The cloud is the only compute model that allows for ubiquitous delivery of any application or service, and it also allows the vendor to constantly deliver new features. Juxtapose this with the traditional on-premises-based model, where updates are delivered quarterly at best and sometimes annually. Then, the organization needs to plan a rollout schedule, possibly requiring a hardware upgrade. UC has been a rapidly evolving market, so businesses can't afford to wait two or three years between major upgrades.

Cloud provides a level of elasticity to UC that is very expensive to match with traditional products. This can be important in areas like the call-center, where businesses may need to staff up during the holidays, toward the end of a quarter, or when some kind of event is happening that may drive more call-center interaction. Instead of provisioning for peak and then having the service sit idle for the majority of the year, businesses can pay for what they need and then "burst up" to the necessary levels when required. The workforce is dynamic, so the delivery model for UC must be equally as dynamic.

I don't believe that business and IT leaders should leverage the cloud merely to get what they had before at a lower cost. They should use the cloud because it's better than the traditional deployment model, and it allows organizations to serve dynamic, mobile workforces better than any other solution.

Next Steps

Cloud UC market slow to develop

When cloud UC makes sense

Three cloud UC service models

This was last published in February 2015

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Is your enterprise considering adopting cloud UC? Why or why not?
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My company is considering adopting cloud UC due to its ability to give us cost savings and productivity advantages that come with the Unified Communications (UC). The UC developments will allow us to bring our inter-office communications as well as mobile and customer communications into a solid and unified structure. This reduces costs buy eliminating hardware needs and increases productivity via less training for use of the new technology.
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Perhaps the higher costs of cloud delivered UC vs premise delivered UC has contributed to the slow adoption. I see this cost difference become significant in medium to large enterprises.
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